SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film in fifteen years. It took a long time, but they’ve done him justice. 

Never before has someone, who actually looks like a teenager to boot, ever nailed the nonchalant, incessantly endearing manner that made Peter Parker such a hit over so many generations of comic lore.

Never before has a Spidey flick nabbed the tone of the all-too-familiar high-school loner who gets to dress up and be just that bit less awkward, the John Hughes influences laid out heavily in this iteration at one stage joyously the subject of one of the film’s many meta jibes.

Andrew Garfield may have done better the second time around though he’s still far out of Tom Holland’s league, here returning with, thankfully, the familiar origin story serviced by just a throwaway line rather than a rehash of tried and tested territory.

Too packing a number of sly references to the original including fairly its most iconic scene and the penultimate battle with the Green Goblin, Homecoming will perhaps unreasonably be compared to and lavished praise over and above its most-favoured predecessor by virtue of it’s being able to jump straight into the action; the traditional trappings of our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man’s genesis tale having been impressed upon audiences many times before.

Homecoming is nevertheless an origin story of a different calibre, with the science-wiz attempting to prove himself on par with his fellow heroes following the events of Civil War, taking on the yet-unseen big-screen villain the Vulture, depicted by, in the film’s most outstanding of all its meta-additions, Michael Keaton. As good as Holland is revelling in the more lighthearted fare and palpable joy at getting an upgraded suit from Tony Stark, a reliably enjoyable Robert Downey Jr ever so comfortable with his trademark shtick, he’s no match for Keaton, consummately balancing both the rollicking comic timing and viciously maniacal mannerisms evidenced in so many of his roles.

A villain whose motivations are frustratingly spelled out only towards the film’s end, as is ever so often the case, Homecoming, as enjoyable as it is, does bear some of the cringe-worthy hallmarks that have plagued so many costume-heavy escapades. The predictably boisterous and forgettable finale, mercifully preceded by several appealing low-key sequences that put Spider-Man’s best skills and acrobatics on display rather than deferring to the collapse of all or part of a city, harbours at least one masked entity who really should know to keep their mask on at all times. And whenever someone is laying out their dastardly plan, more than stopping to listen, those with carriage of said city’s safety should always take a moment to consider just why their antagonist is so readily accommodating.

Finely scored and cast, some of the best talent get notably sidelined for a more decided focus on some of the series’ biggest cash-cows. The welcome if fleeting presence of Donald Glover, once a fan-favourite for the web-slinger, is too mirrored in the passing screen-time allocated to the likewise talented Logan Marshall-Green in a thoroughly thankless role. The deus ex machina entries of a much more seasoned Avenger not once but twice to just wrap things up when Peter and the writers have got themselves into a corner, while playing well into the underlying theme of the Queens-native coming to terms with the extent of his powers, are nonetheless just that bit groan-inducing.

This matters little in what is otherwise a fixating comic-book adaptation. The addition of a well-mooted third act twist, itself a homage of sorts to Spidey’s earliest triumph at the box office, delivers the very best exchanges between Holland and Keaton; these thrilling moments only underscored by the regretfully limited screen-time they share together.

With Keaton ultimately proffering a more nuanced baddie than almost any of Marvel’s big-screen rogue’s gallery, alongside Marisa Tomei as May Parker and Jacob Batalon as Pete’s exuberant high-school confidante, who manages to steal every scene he’s in, a great Spider-Man film may have been a long time coming but it was well worth the wait.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is in cinemas July 6